For centuries the city of Paris has been attracting every shade of artist, traveler, philosopher, and writer. If ever romance was a tactile, tangible thing it seems as if the very foundations of Paris was built with it. Backpacking Paris is the ultimate journey into stunning architecture, culinary delights, world-class museums, hidden gems, and fine cafes.
Now let’s be clear. Paris is MASSIVE. There are so many hip cafes, green parks, and awesome things to do, one can easily feel like a person who hasn’t eaten for days that has just been dropped in front of the world’s biggest gourmet buffet line. Paris is that feast for the senses.
Paris for backpackers is a magical wonderland. There is no getting around this fact however: Paris is an expensive city to travel to. This guide highlights the best tips, tricks, and ideas on how to take Paris by storm without having your wallet feel like a hurricane just rocked through it. Learn how to enjoy Paris on the cheap like a local!
Get insights on backpacker accommodation in Paris, suggested itineraries, your Paris daily budget, awesome things to do in the city, urban hikes around Paris, nightlife, and much much more.
The City of Light is one of my favorite places on earth. By the end of this travel guide, you will be fully prepared to have an awesome Parisian adventure of your own!
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In order to make the most of your time backpacking Paris on the cheap, you first need a realistic idea of what a reasonable Paris daily budget should be.
Paris CAN be cheap. Maybe just not as cheap as we broke backpackers would like. Of course whilst backpacking Paris is a bit pricey you CAN do a bare-bones trip here. By that I mean it is entirely possible (not easy) to get by on $20-30 a day in Paris though you would really be missing out on the little things that make Paris so special. Since you can’t even score a hostel in Paris for under $30 generally, you’d be struggling to spend less than that if you want to do something other than just breathe in Paris.
That said, to really enjoy the city, the food, the wine, and the attractions you are going to have to shell out a little more than that. With a daily budget of $55-80 you can truly have a very pleasurable experience.
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Average Costs of a Trip to Paris
Here is a breakdown of a Paris daily budget:
Dorm bed in a hostel: $30-45 (ouch!)
Small basic room for two: $90-150
Paris Homestay : $80 – $120
Airbnb room in a shared/entire apartment: $30-75
10 Metro rides pass: $17.75
Metro from the CDG Airport — city center: $13
Average museum entrance fee: $15-20
Dinner in a French brassiere:$20-30+
Pastry from a bakery:$1-3.50
Wine bottle from the supermarket: $4-6
Coffee from a cafe: $2-2.50
Beer at the bar: $5-7
Paris Budget Backpacking Tips
Like most European capitals, Paris can be very expensive. To backpack Paris on the cheap and navigate the steep costs one can easily incur in a couple of days here, you need to be armed with a few practical Paris travel tips and hacks to see you through.
If you pay attention to how you spend your money and take advantage of these backpacker tricks to keep your costs low, you can have an amazing time in Paris without burning a hole in your wallet or broke backpacker soul.
- Visit museums on Sundays: The permanent collection at The Louvre for example is free for everyone on Sundays!
- Drink wine on the street like a hobo: One of the few things in Paris that doesn’t cost much money: store-bought wine. Settle in on the banks of the Seine or find a shady park and post up with some wine and cheese.
- Buy metro tickets in bulk: If you are visiting Paris for a couple days, you certainly do not want to buy metro tickets one at a time. If you buy ten at once, it works out cheaper in the end.
- Walk!: Distances in Paris can be huge and taking the metro will be necessary at some point during your day. Other times, walking is the best way to get around. Save your precious metro tickets for when you really need them. Plan out your day in such a way that doesn’t have you doubling back on the metro multiple times.
- Seek out the free attractions: Entrance to the major cathedrals like Notre Dame are free. A visit to scope out the graves of famous dead at Père Lachaise Cemetery is free. Strolling around the famous Montmartre neighboorhood is free.
- Prepare your own meals: Okay so you will definitely be eating out some in Paris. How could you not? That said, in order to save some cash, you’ll have to cook for yourself at least one meal a day.
- Homestays – There are some great homestays in Paris which mean you get to stay in a central location. Many include free coffee, breakfast and insider tips!
- Pack a travel water bottle and save money every day!
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Wondering where to stay? Check out our insider guide for the best neighborhoods to stay in Paris.
If you have difficulty Couchsurfing in Paris, I am not surprised. It’s very competitive in Paris! Time to book a hostel amigos!
Even with hostels, I do recommend that you book in advance due to the sheer number of humans traveling here. The summer season sees millions of tourists passing through, many of whom are staying in budget hostels.
The city is blessed with many awesome areas to lay your head after a day of exploring. These are a few of the best neighborhoods in Paris to find backpacker accommodation as well as interesting happenings:
Montmartre: The former go-to brothel center of old is now a hip, beautiful area brimming with cafes, art exhibitions, and fine cobblestone streets.
South Pigalle: South Pigalle or SoPI is hipster and nightlife central. The streets are packed with trendy bars, delicious restaurants, and beautiful tree-lined avenues.
Oberkampf: This neighboorhood also boasts happening nightlife, fine (some budget) eateries, cocktail bars, and truly delicious West African restaurants for a taste of the Parisian ethnic flavor. The Oberkampf is very centrally located in Paris and makes for a solid base.
Haut Marais: Haut Marais is fast becoming one of Paris’ fastest developing neighborhoods. For one the buildings of the Marais have stunning stone craftsmanship dating back centuries. This area is also home to the oldest covered market in Paris, Marché des Enfants-Rouges. Pop on over and score fresh organic produce or tasty baked goods.
Batignolles: Okay so one common theme all of these neighborhoods share: they all having fucking amazing places to eat and drink! C’est la vie dans Paris! Batignolles is no different. In addition to great cafes, you can find small outdoor markets, a few fine squares, and a nice park with a stream running through it.
Going on to explore more of France after Paris? To help you find the absolute best places to stay in France during your backpacking adventure, check out our in-depth article on the best hostels in France.
Best Backpacker Hostel in Paris — St Christopher’s Inn Gare du Nord
Now the term “best” is relative. With so many hostels to choose from in Paris, it wasn’t easy to pick a winner. However, St. Christopher’s Inn Gare du Nord takes the prize. This hostel ticks all of the boxes I look for in a hostel. Friendly, helpful staff, not too big, not too small, clean, and overall a super fun vibe.
In addition to the free wifi throughout the hostel, guests also get 25% off food at the Belushi Bar & Restaurant downstairs.
Highlights include: Great bar and restaurant onsite. Free city walking tours, and very comfortable beds. If you are looking for a fantastic place to base yourself for your time backpacking Paris, look no further than St. Christopher’s.
Best Party Hostel in Paris — Woodstock by HipHopHostels
Woodstock by HipHopHostels take the prize as the best party hostel for two reasons. First the bar is a great place to meet new folks and get the night started. Second, Woodstock is located at the perfect crossroads of other happening bars and clubs. Be sure to take full advantage of the happy-hour offered daily.
It is never a bad idea to go to the supermarket, score some wine, and pre-game a little bit with your mates before hitting the town. Enjoy the funky 1970’s deco! Highlights include: free Breakfast, self-catering facilities, and a free city walking tour.
Best hostel for Solo Travelers in Paris — Generator Paris
Generator is beautifully constructed hostel where meeting people is as easy as drinking tasty French wine. You’d be hard-pressed to find another hostel that put this much attention to detail into construction. Take a seat at the cool themed bar and mingle with fellow backpackers. As far as atmosphere goes, Generator hostel knocked it out of the park.
The staff is super knowledgable as well if you are needing directions or advice about anything in Paris.
Best Airbnb in Paris – Cute flat near Eiffel Tower
You can’t get any closer. This Airbnb is located a few meters from the Eiffel Tower and many other attractions, like the Seine River.
Surrounded by fine dining restaurants, cafes and the typical french shops, you will find yourself in the best area to live in. This home is definitely a great choice as it’s one of the best Airbnbs in Paris.
You’re also very close to Bus-, Metro- and Train stations.
Paris is one of the best cities in Europe, so there’s a lot of things you can do here! If you only have a couple of days, I recommend sticking to what you like to do. Are you interested in history and architecture? Do you love art? Do you just want to munch wine and baguettes on the banks of the Seine?
It is possible that you are interested in all of those things.
Fact is, Paris is huge, and unless you have a couple months to spare, you simply won’t be able to see all of it in a few days. To get a feel for the essence of Paris, don’t exhaust yourself by trying to cram too much activity in. At the same time, have the time of your life exploring this fantastic city.
First things first: Here is a look at the top 10 things to do in Paris to get you familiar with what to do in the city.
1. Picnic below the Eiffel Tower
It goes without saying that this might just be the most scenic urban picnic of your life.
Seeing the Eiffel Tower from the ground is pretty cool, but climbing up onto the first and second level is truly epic. Walk on the glass floor, enjoy the most amazing view of Paris and get the best Instagram shots! But keep in mind that you’ll be climbing over 700 steps!
3. Drink coffee at a Parisian cafe
Cafe culture is huge is Paris. Get a taste of what the hype is all about.
4. Check out The Catacombs
Touristy? Yes. Pretty darn cool? In fact The Catacombs of Paris are very impressive!
5. Visit The Louvre
Few museums on the planet can match up with the quality and quantity offered up by a visit to the Louvre.
6. Explore the Covered Passages
Get off the beaten path in Paris with a visit to the Covered Passages (Passages Couverts).
7. Take a cooking class
If you love to cook and want to learn more about dynamic French gastronomy, a cooking class is a whole lot of fun.
8. Drink Wine on the River Seine
Simple. Classic. Romantic. A damn good time.
9. Go to an outdoor market
With so many to choose from, finding a market is the easy part. Deciding how many delicious things to purchase is the challenging bit.
Parisians love to hit the streets and play around in the decaying urban areas. Aside from being the proving grounds for one of the most sensational contemporary sports, parkour, people also enjoy skating, BMX, and scootering here.
Now that you have become familiar with the top things to do in Paris, let’s take a look at a Paris 3 day itinerary to get your backpacking inspiration flowing even more.
Day 1: Top Sights in Paris, Pastries, and Nightlife
Once you have made it to the city center it is time to hit the streets. You have been seeing images all of your life of the famous Eiffel Tower. Today it is time to experience it. After a quick breakfast at your hostel or a cafe, I recommend hitting up The Louvre. Alternatively, you can save it for the evening, which depending on the day can be cheaper.
Among one of the best museums in the world, The Louvre is an absolute must visit. If you head there after 6 pm on a Wednesday or Friday, entrance is reduced to just €6 and the museum is open until 9.45pm. Entrance is free for under 26s on Friday evenings. On Bastille Day (14 July) and the first Sunday of each month entrance is free for everyone.
Our suggestion: you can get the most out of the museum with a guided tour (which also includes skip-the-line access). Soak up all the cool things there are to know about the world’s most famous paintings and each of their artists.
The Musée d’Orsay is another world-class art museum worth checking out. The museum building is an old train station adjacent to the Seine.
Next walk along the Seine River in route to one of the world’s most iconic structures: the Eiffel Tower.
Cross the esplanade of Les Invalides and you’ll get to the Pont Alexander III, one of Paris’ most beautiful bridges. Once you arrive at the tower, you can choose to pay the hefty fee to ascend to the top or just enjoy it for free from the ground.
The green lawn at the base of the Eiffel Tower is a great spot for a picnic. Be sure to get lunch supplies from a local supermarket in the morning as you will be hungry after the Louvre!
Day 1 in Paris: Afternoon
Stop off for a pastry and a strong coffee to get the blood pumping again after lunch. Then head to the Montmartre.
The Montmartre neighborhood is a fun place to walk around, especially at night. There are a handful of fun backpacker bars in Paris, several of which are located in Montmartre. On the Road Pub is a good place to start.
Clichy Boulevard is a bohemian area with a fun nightlife and plenty of sketchy sex toy shops. Hit up a bar or two for a drink. Don’t drink too much if you want to have another successful day exploring Paris!
Day Two in Paris: Notre Dame, Père Lachaise Cemetery, and The Passages
The next morning, you can begin your day with a trip to Notre Dame Cathedral. Like many places in Paris, the lines here can be fucking insane. I recommend for you to start early in order to avoid the mid-day crowds. Hike up to the top of the cathedral for killer views of Paris.
After a quick (or slow lunch) from a cafe or bakery, head to Père Lachaise Cemetery. Normally I’d say cemeteries aren’t all that exciting, but some true legends are buried here including Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, and many many more.
Whenever you are walking around in Paris, make sure to keep an eye out for all of the beautiful street art. Now it is time for your after lunch coffee and pastry!
Day 2 in Paris: Afternoon
For the afternoon, do you want something fun to do in Paris that is off of the beaten track? There is a series of covered passages (Passages Couverts) located in the 2nd and 9th arrondissements where you can explore tiny hidden cafes, ancient bookshops, and delicious pâtisseries. Take a coffee in one of the passages and soak in the vibes from another time.
The passages were originally built in the 19th century, as a place where rich folks could still go shopping in bad weather. Now the passages are one of Paris’ lesser-known charms. Ok the secret might be out and these passages aren’t so secret, but they are certainly much more chill than the main landmarks of the city.
An afternoon stroll through this part of Paris is the perfect end to several days of heavy exploring. My three favorite passages: Panorama, Jouffroy, and Verdeau.
Day 3 in Paris: Versailles, Outdoor Markets, Cooking Class, Les Catacombs
Got the Paris burnout yet? Keep charging forward, I believe in you! For day 3 in Paris, your options depend on your interests and energy level.
The Palace of Versailles makes for a fantastic day trip from Paris. King Louis XIV did not fuck around when it came to building a fine palace for the royal family. The decadence of the place is pretty mind-blowing. The surrounding grounds and gardens are equally impressive as the palace.
Since this hotspot is absolutely massive, it might be worth booking a guided tour. That way, you can be sure not to miss out on interesting facts and maybe even some secret doors. This tour will guarantee fast access, so you won’t have to wait in line, transport from where you’re staying and back, and an amazing audio-guide.
Given the extreme wealth the Palace of Versailles symbolizes, it is not surprising to me in the least that the French Revolution started to take shape when King Louis XIV was a resident at Versailles.
Versailles and Paris are well-connected by train, so do pop over for a few hours and have a look for yourself.
An off the beaten path day-trip alternative to Versailles is a quick (1 hour) mission to Provins, a UNESCO World Heritage medieval village. Provins gets nowhere near the heavy human traffic that Versailles does, so it does make for a good option.
Day 3: Alternatives for things to do in Paris
Skipping Versailles and staying in Paris is understandable and there is plenty to keep you busy of course. If the macabre prospect of seeing old bones and skulls underground interests you, hit up the Paris Catacombs. You can visit the Catacombs for $16, more if you take an audio guide.
No trip backpacking Paris would be complete without at least half a day dedicated to food and/or cooking!
If you love French food and want to up your cooking game, I recommend taking a cooking class! Many of the classes you find from an online search are expensive. I’m talking in the $200 per person range. Don’t be discouraged.
There are certainly cheaper options out there more in the $50-75 dollar range. If you love cooking and eating it is a small price to pay for the experience. Ask your hostel where you might be able to find a budget cooking class.
If a class isn’t your idea of a good time I recommend checking out several of the fantastic outdoor markets in Paris. Go with your mates or your partner, buy some fresh ingredients and cook it all up like a true Parisian.
If you are cooking in your hostel, you will be sure to make an army of new friends, most of whom only know how to boil water for pasta. Better yet before heading to the market(s) send a call to action around the hostel. See if anyone else wants to join in creating an epic Parisian feast from scratch.
In addition to the famous outdoor markets of Paris, there are a number of small urban farms worth a visit. The farms are really more like large veggie gardens, but you get the idea. Produce doesn’t get any fresher than this, especially in the city.
Have You heard of the Paris Pass?
Feeling super motivated and full of energy? If you are looking to make a serious whirlwind tour of all the best things to do in Paris in just a few days, I recommend that you check out the Paris Pass.
The Paris Pass is basically an all-access pass to many of the most popular and important sites in Paris. If you really make use of it, the Paris Pass is definitely the cheapest way to see the top Paris attractions for a fraction of the cost of what you would pay for each one individually. Worth considering anyway.
Paris Off the Beaten Track
Got more time on your hands? Paris has an eternity of awesome things to do as long as you’re in town. Check out some Paris off the beaten path adventures the city has to offer:
- Explore cathedrals that are not Notre Dame: Notre Dame is worth a visit. However, there are several other cathedrals in Paris that are very impressive and won’t leave you exhausted from the crowds. To start with check out Basilique Saint-Denis.
- Go on a chocolate crawl: We have all been on a pub crawl at some point on our backpacking career. A chocolate crawl is just what it sounds like. Best part: a chocolate hangover is way more fun than the boozy version.
- Check out the abandoned railway green belt: The La Petite Ceinture is located in the 13th arrondissement where you can reach the newest section open to the public at 60 rue Damesme. In the 16th, a larger green space, between the Porte d’Auteuil and Gare de la Muette, and in the 12th, a 600-foot-long-nature train can be accessed at 21 rue Rottenbourg. Adventurers can hop in anywhere along the line to find the favorite lairs of Paris graffiti artists and hidden entrances to the catacombs.
- Climb a tower that isn’t the Eiffel: From the Montparnasse Tower, you can score some pretty stunning views of the city and the Eiffel Tower. The views are particularly spectacular at night when the city is lit up.
- Take a secret food tour: From the Montmartre area, you can jump on a tour that takes you on a journey through Parisian food culture. Sample some of the best cheese, cured meat, wine, and bread that otherwise you would never have heard of.
- Drink wine on the Seine: Some afternoons you just want to relax with your friends or lover. Head to the Seine with a bottle of cheap (but delicious) wine, people watch, and absorb the essence of what Paris is all about.
- Discover the parks of Paris: Paris has some truly remarkable green spaces. Some of them are not visited often by foreigners. My favorite Parisian park is Butte Chaumont. There are waterfalls, caves, beautiful bridges, and even a small lake.
Best Walks in Paris
In addition to all of its charming streets, cafes, and impressive architecture there are some excellent walks interspersed throughout Paris as well. Here are a few to peak your interest:
Promenade Plantée: Located 10 meters above the street, this walk begins at the Bastille and winds through the 12th arrondissement for three miles, coming out before the Bois de Vincennes. This elevated greenway is truly a special part of Paris.
Rue des Cascades: This isn’t exactly a nature walk through it is worth doing. The Rue des Cascades area has some of the city’s best street art.
Jardin Du Luxembourg: This massive sprawling garden complex is popular, but it is also stunning.
Place des Vosges: A classic Paris park that is surrounded by ancient buildings and trees. The perfect location for an afternoon siesta!
La Petite Ceinture: Explore the green and solitude of the abandoned railroad tracks that snake their way around the city. Unfortunately, there isn’t a huge amount of track open to the public anymore, but sometimes rules are meant to be broken, just saying. Today only four short sections of abandoned railroads are converted into green spaces and opened to the public in arrondissements 12, 13, 15, and 16.
Best time of year to visit Paris
Let us face the reality at hand. Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world. Millions of people flock here every year for a glimpse of that Parisian magic. That said, certain times of the year are clearly busier and more crowded.
The high season of Paris coincides with warm weather, vacation time, and school holidays. This means summer! From late May until September, Paris is awash in foreign visitors. I’m talking about lines so long they want to make even the most patient person’s head explode.
The best time to visit Paris is in the fall or the spring. Certainly around the Christmas and New Year holidays Paris can get very busy. There will never be a time when tourist hordes are not in Paris. That said, if you go in the low-season your overall experience and impression of Paris will be that much more positive.
Getting in and out of Paris
Paris is served by three main airports. Charles De Gaulle is the city’s main international airport. Orly is the second largest and also serves international airlines. Then there is Beauvais Tille Airport. Beauvais Tille is where a majority of the budget operators like Ryanair, Wizzair, etc, fly out of. The budget airport, Beauvais Tille is located 85 kilometers (53 miles) north of Paris. … The cheapest way to get to Beauvais is by train or bus from the Gare du Nord station.
In fact all of the airports can be reached fairly easily from the city center by train or by bus. The prices vary, but as like all things in Paris, it ain’t as cheap as one might think.
To get to or from Charles De Gaulle Airport it costs €10 by train.
Orly Airport: €12.05 by train.
Beauvais Tille Airport: €17 for a shuttle bus, which involves the least amount of hassle, as to arrive at the airport from the train station, you need to grab a taxi to complete the journey.
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How to get around Paris
The Paris metro is awesome. There are several main lines connecting the city center. You can get anywhere relatively quickly by taking the metro. As i mentioned before, I recommend buying metro tickets in bulk on your first day in Paris. If you are familiar with metro systems, you will navigate the Parisian version no problem. If using metros is new to you, it won’t take long before you get the hang of it.
Taxis and Uber are also options though expect lots of traffic and to pay big money for even a short ride.
The best way to get around Paris is simple. Take the metro when you need to, and carry on the rest of the time on foot. Paris is a fabulous city to walk around in. Anyway you need a little exercise after all of those buttery pastries right?
You can also choose a boat to get from A to B. Perfect for a weekend in Paris, the hop-on-hop-off boat stops at 8 hot spots that are close to the river. It’s a cheap, relaxing and reliable way to get around.
Long Distance Trains from Paris
You can catch a train to/from Paris headed to other major cities. If you are planning on backpacking Paris to Amsterdam, London, Luxembourg City, or Brussels you can catch a Eurostar Train to those destinations.
If you are looking to explore more of France, there are daily trains running to every major city from Paris. A journey to Marseille in the south takes around 3 1/2 hours. Top tip: Book your train tickets as early as you can! Really it is the difference in between paying $25 or $120. Same exact train ride, just booked at different times.
Safety in Paris
Like any big city, Paris has its safety issues. There are some sketchy neighborhoods on the outskirts, however there isn’t any reason you should end up there. Always be aware of pickpockets and thieves as they operate in crowded places and specifically the metro lines. Watch out for strangers coming up to you with petitions and signs; this is usually just a distraction to steal your stuff.
For solo female travelers, unfortunately, cat calling is a problem I have witnessed first-hand multiple times. Good news: France recently passed a law that punishes cat calling. I don’t really know how realistic it is for the police to enforce this new rule but at least they are trying to address the problem. When you ride the metro you will see large posters depicting cat calling situations with a message about how it is now illegal. Overall it is a positive step in the right direction for Paris and France.
Pick yourself up a backpacker security belt to keep your cash safe on the road, and check out Backpacker Safety 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst backpacking Paris. Have a look at this post for plenty of ideas on ingenious ways to hide your money when traveling.
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
Traveling without insurance would be risky so do consider getting good backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure.
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Paris Accommodation Travel Hacks
Let’s face it, sometimes we all need to stay in a hostel. Hostels are great for meeting fellow travelers and just having space where you can do your thing at your own pace. Backpacker accommodation in Paris is far from cheap, however. I will just say the prices are staggering once you learn what they are. So, stay at a hostel for a night or two and consider your other options:
Couchsurf!: If you manage to land a Couchsurfing spot in Paris, you will have successfully eliminated your biggest cost: accommodation. I’ll be honest with you. Couchsurfing is more popular than ever before.
I’ve been told Couchsurfing hosts in Paris can receive up to 50+ requests PER DAY! Point being, whilst I would not explicitly count on Couchsurfing in Paris, I would sure give it an honest go. Make sure you send a very convincing message short of selling your body and your soul.
Tap into your backpacker network: If you have done any sort of backpacking before, odds are you know someone who knows someone from Paris. The French love to go backpacking! Before you begin your Paris backpacking trip, I suggest you put your feelers out there and ask your network of friends if they know of someone whom you can crash with for a night or two.
This might sound farfetched, but honestly, this has helped me out multiple times in Paris as well as in other cities. As it turns out, my friend of a friend host was awesome and we are still friends! Ultimately if you can find a balance between a hostel night and a free night, you will have more cash for delicious pastries.
Eating and Drinking in Paris
You don’t need me to tell you. Culinary traditions in Paris have deep roots. This is the city that invented fine dining and gastronomic pleasure. Good food and drink is everywhere. There are a few different types of establishments to be found in Paris and France in general. Let’s take a quick look at some of the differences:
Pâtisserie $: A bakery that specializes in pastries and sweets, as well as a term for these types of food.
Boulangerie $: A boulangerie makes bread in addition to Pâtisserie. You can also get savory snacks or meals like pizza, sandwiches, etc. This is where to score those piping hot baguettes first thing in the morning.
Brasserie $$: The classic French restaurant with a relaxed setting, which serves single dishes and other meals. The word brasserie is also French for “brewery” and, by extension, “the brewing business”. Those dreamy restaurants you see on tree lined avenues in Paris with well dressed waiters serving coffees and meals, that is a brasserie.
Café $-$$: The typical French café kind of looks like a brasserie upon first glance. There is normally outdoor seating where folks can sit and chat in the sunshine, weather permitting. At a café their main business is drinks. All types of coffee, tea, soda, and sometimes beer is available. Don’t count on scoring an entire meal at a cafe, but they usually offer something sweet to go with your coffee.
Bar $: Actually most “bars” aren’t what people not from France think a bar is. A bar in France or Paris is a place that opens very early in the morning. They usually sell tobacco (bar-tabac), lottery tickets, and coffee. I usually see old men hanging out there early in the morning and in the late afternoons. One can place bets on horse racing from a bar-tabac, though I’ve never done it myself. Sometimes though, a bar is a bar, and then it is similar to a pub.
Pub $$: The French pub is the same as the English pub in the sense that it is a social place serving primarily alcoholic beverages and sometimes food.
Wine in Paris
France is famous the world over for its wine. There is over 20 wine growing regions in France. The bottom line is that wine is serious business in Paris!
Champagne— Perhaps no other drink in the world is synonymous with celebration like Champagne. This bubbly golden beverage is famous for a reason: it’s fucking delicious.
Cabernet Sauvignon— In the world of wine sales, they say “Cab is king”. Cab Sav is certainly a very tasty red-wine, that goes well with meat or pasta.
Rosé— The jewel of Provence. A cool glass of rosé on a hot summer day is hard to beat.
Cognac— Cognac is a variety of brandy named after the town of Cognac, France. It is produced in the surrounding wine-growing region in the departments of Charente and Charente-Maritime. Thanks to American rap music, millions of people have now heard of this legendary beverage. I believe it is worth the hype.
Fake French restaurant warning
As you know Paris has no shortage of fine places to eat. Whilst you might be tempted to go for some of the cheaper restaurants, there is something you should know. Many French people have told me that restaurants in some of the touristy areas of Paris have a little trick.
They think tourists are dumb or don’t know any better so the food they serve is anything but authentic French cuisine. You might pay 20 Euros for a bowl of Ratatouille that came from a can. Point is, now that you are aware of the canned food phenomenon, you can try to make an informed decision when choosing a place to eat.
This is not to say there are no good affordable places to eat in Paris. There are heaps of them! My advice is to simply avoid eating out in the obvious touristy spots.
For French cooking classes, check out this site for awesome deals.
Nightlife in Paris
The nightlife in Paris is an experience every backpacker should get a taste of. In this city there is a nightlife venue to suit ever backpackers interest. Seriously it is all here.
There are a plethora of clubs where you can get fancied up and go dancing. Bars and pubs can be found in every neighborhood. For those with finer tastes still there are upscale cocktail bars serving delicious concoctions. Speak-easy lounges — which are kind of like clandestine bars inspired by the American prohibition days — are popping up as well with more frequency. Some even require a secret password to gain entry, no shit.
Whilst there is an unending choice of places to go for a big night out, keep in mind that going to bars, clubs, and pubs will eat a huge hole in your budget if your not careful. Go out and experience what Paris has to offer. Just don’t get so carried away that you blow your three day Paris budget in three hours.
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A Moveable Feast — Fancy having a look into what life was like for expats living in Paris in the 1920s? If you yearn for the Golden age of the Lost Generation like I do, this Ernest Hemingway classic is a must read. As a writer, I often fantasize about this time in Paris. This book helps you get to know that nostalgic feeling even better.
The Little Prince — Few novels have been as inspirational as “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Now one of the most famous literary works of the 20th century, TLP is a true classic. Follow the tale of the Little Prince as he discovers the universe and learns lessons about life and love.
Satori in Paris — Satori in Paris is a rollicking autobiographical account of Jack Kerouac’s search for his heritage in France and lands the author in his familiar milieu of seedy bars and all-night conversations. This book is one of ol’ Kerouac’s last novels.
Illuminations — Arthur Rimbaud is one of my favorite French poets. Why? Both because he was a genius of his time and a badass traveler in a time when travel wasn’t easy. The prose poems of the great French Symbolist, Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), have acquired enormous prestige among readers everywhere and have been a revolutionary influence on poetry in the twentieth century.
Lonely Planet Paris — It is never a bad idea to have a Lonely Planet on hand.
Make Money Online Whilst Backpacking Paris
Traveling in Paris long-term? Keen to make some cash when you are not exploring the city?
Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.
In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.
Being a Responsible Backpacker in Paris
Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough travel water bottle.
Go and watch A Plastic Ocean on Netflix – it’ll change how you view the plastic problem in the world; you need to understand what we are up against. If you think it doesn’t matter, get off my fucking site.
Don’t pick up single use plastic bags, you’re a backpacker – take your daypack if you need to go to the shop or run errands.
Bear in mind, that many animal products in countries you travel through will not be ethically farmed and won’t be of the highest quality. I’m a carnivore but when I’m on the road, I only eat chicken. Mass-farming of cows etc leads to the rainforest being cut down – which is obviously a huge problem.
Recently, my gear-venture, Active Roots has started to sell water bottles. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, whether you take an Active Roots bottle or not – TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your plastic footprint, don’t be a dick.
Need more guidance? – Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.
Backpacking in Paris will bring you ample opportunities to participate in debauchery, and it is very important to have fun, let loose, and get a bit wild at times. Most backpacking trips I have been on across the world have included at least a few mornings where I wake up knowing I went too far.
There are some things that will put you in the category of a straight up jackass if you do them. Being super loud and obnoxious in a tiny hostel at 3 AM is a classic rookie backpacker mistake. Everyone in the hostel will hate you when you wake them up. Show your fellow travelers respect whilst backpacking in the Paris, and anywhere else for that matter!
Climbing on ancient church walls, monuments, or other historical artifacts should be avoided. Learn to appreciate the cultural treasures of France and don’t be that dickhead who adds to their demise.
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